This week we’ve got a review of one of the Tenchi Muyo spin-off movies. Can the wacky hyjinks of Ryoko, Ayeka & company translate to the big screen – or will they fall on their face like Mihoshi is wont to do.

Cast, Crew & Other Info

Ai Orikasa as Ryoko
Masami Kikuchi as Tenchi Masaki
Megumi Hayashibara as Achika
Ryûzaburô Ôtomo as Kain
Yumi Takada as Ayeka
Chisa Yokoyama as Sasami
Etsuko Kozakura as Ryo-Ohki
Toshiyuki Morikawa as Nobuyuki Masaki (young)
Yuko Kobayashi as Washu
Yuko Mizutani as Mihoshi
Yuri Amano as Kiyone

Directed by Hiroshi Negishi
Music by Christopher Franke
Screenplay by Hiroshi Negishi, Ryoe Tsukimura
Animation by AIC

The Premise

Tenchi Masaki just can’t catch a break – as if the usual violent bickering between Ayeka & Ryoko wasn’t bad enough, the galactic criminal Kain has escaped by imprisonment by the Galactic Police, and is traveling back in time in an attempt to kill Tenchi’s mother – Achika in the 1970s – before Tenchi was born. Now, Tenchi & company must travel back in time to save Achika before Tenchi fades out of the time-stream forever.

Continuity Notes: There are many various continuites for the Tenchi Muyo series. Possibly more than any other anime frachise. This falls into the “Universe” Continuity, which contains “Tenchi TV/Tenchi Universe” (which was aired on Cartoon Network in its Toonami block), this film, and the 3rd Tenchi Muyo film, Tenchi Muyo: Forever!. What makes this continuity different? The Wings of the Light Hawk are absent (replaced by “Jurai Power”), and Mihoshi is dumber than a bag of squeeky hammers and is partnered off with the significantly more intelligent character of Kiyone to form a sort of comedy duo.

High Point

I’m quite pleased to see a depiction of the 1970s in any media (in terms of having character time travel from the present day or future to the ’70s) that doesn’t involve the audience getting beaten repeatedly over the head with the fact that they’re in the ’70s. Admittedly, the ’70s in Japan was dramatically different than the ’70s in the US, but still, it’s nice to let the audience roll with it. Additionally, considering the subject matter, I was actually a little concerned that they’d downplay the fighting between Ayeka & Ryoko.

Low Point

While I like Kiyone, and I do think she’s a good straight-woman for Mihoshi, I still don’t like how far Mihoshi got dumbed down for the TV series. She wasn’t a Gotoh The Razor in the OVA series, but she wasn’t a complete idiot either. Also, I never really got Kain’s justification for travelling back in time to take out Achika. Yes, I got that he had a grudge against the Jurai, but considering that none of the Jurai knew Yosho, Tenchi, and thus, by extention, Achika were on Earth (they’d thought Yosho had died centuries ago), I’m not certain how Kain would know they were there. It’s nit-picky, but it bears mentioning. Additionally, Achika’s use of the Jurai power shortening her life didn’t work for me (particularly considering that, in theory, the same use of the Jurai power that Tenchi had been doing over the past TV series should have been having the same effect – but nobody had noticed it). I know this falls into the realm of suspension of disbelief – but I was kind of hoping that, since the TV series was over at this time and this particular continuity has nothing to do with the manga, they’d have the guts to basically be willing to mess with the status quo and instead of simply preventing things from being changed for the worse – they accidentially changed things for the better (say, Tenchi getting back to the present and discovering his mom hadn’t died when he was young or something – I dunno).

Nudity & Violence Notes

No visible naughty-bits here. Kiyone briefly gets whisked forward in time by Washu so she can provide some expository dialog, but Kiyone takes pains to preserve her modesty. There is, however, some bloody violence – nothing as bad as Karas, and most of the people who are bleeding are extraterrestrials (and don’t bleed red blood), but they’re still getting cut up. This could be a little frightening for younger viewers.

The Scores

Originality: It’s a sequel to a spinoff series, but one that tells a story that hasn’t been seen in any of the other versions of the franchise (though it does take a few bits from Back To The Future, but not a lot of them). 4/6.

Animation: The animation is absolutely gorgeous. I would like to see a DVD release of this movie optimized for a 16:9 TV set, and re-mastered (and possibly even on Blu-Ray). I think this movie could handle it. Seriously, the animation is on-par with Akira. 6/6.

Story: The story really kept me guessing about what was going on. For a movie like this, it’s reasonable to assume that Tenchi & company are going to succeed (since they want to make more movies with the character), but the story was still paced well, and kept me guessing, while still hitting some of the important Tenchi Muyo beats (particularly related to the Baking Soda-and-Vinegar chemestry between Ryoko and Ayeka). 5/6.

Voice Acting: The acting is generally good – with most of the characters putting on good performances, particularly Megumi Hayashibara’s performance. Yuko Mizutani’s perfomance as Mihoshi was grating – but I suspect that’s partly to do about how the character is written. 4/6.

Emotional Response: Fans of the series will generally know that the relationship between Tenchi, Ayeka, and Ryoko will generally stick with the status quo. The real emotional focus of the movie is on the relationship between Achika & young Nobuyuki (who will be Tenchi’s parents). It’s a pretty well written love story, which I got into – enough that, as I mentioned under the Low Point, that I was hoping that they were planning to change the status quo, with Tenchi’s mother being dead during the “current” part of the series. 5/6.

Production: The sound design is pretty good, though the score is hit or miss, and the DVD menu for the disk I got (from NetFlix) felt like they just took the Laserdisk menu and moved it over (disclaimer – I’ve never used a Laserdisk player). 4/6.

Overall: This is a good Tenchi film. Not the best installment of the franchise, but I definitely enjoyed it. 4 out of 6.

In total, Tenchi Muyo The Movie 1: Tenchi Muyo In Love gets a 36/42.

Notes:

Like Ranma 1/2, I consider the Tenchi Muyo series (at least the OVAs, the first TV series, and related movies) to be part of the “Romantic Comedy Anime Canon” – in the sense that this is one of the 4 or 5 romantic comedy anime series that are influential to the genre, and will be (to varying degrees) referenced in other anime series.

EDIT: I forgot to add the Overall category to the review scores.